Writer pal Rob Kroese has a new book out this week, and in lieu of the standard dog and pony marketing show about the book, he’s provided a rather confessional summary of the last few years of his life while he’s been working on this book. I’m glad he’s managed to get some distance from all of it (as well as persevering with the whole writer thing), but his story is all too familiar. In the last few months, I’ve gotten caught up in the old inchoate rage that used to get in the way of things. It stems from frustration, mostly, and it was a mental state that I thought I had put to rest. Apparently not.
When you’re a creative entrepreneur (read responsible to deadlines that are either distant or self-imposed), it’s easy to lose track of the why. Why do we struggle to create something out of nothing? Why do we write stories that are persistent undervalued by the very people who crave them? Why do we keep pushing this rock up this very big hill? It would be easier to go work in the back of a big box store, sorting inventory in the dead of the night when we wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. I drove past some road construction today, where at least four dudes were standing around in their orange vests, supervising. Wouldn’t that be easier than chasing an audience that might not exist for my books?
Of course it would be. It would be easy to set all of this aside and go punch a clock somewhere. And I’ve thought about it. A lot, recently. “I’ll wrap it all up, and go away,” I think to myself. “I’ll just get a job somewhere. Let all the social media presence go dark, and just vanish.” And I’ve even said this out loud a few times. “It’s my final option,” I say. “When nothing else works, it’s the last choice available, and I’ll take it when the time comes. And I won’t look back. I’ll just be done with all this creative stuff.”
And I’ll say it earnestly. I’ll look folks in the eye when I say it. “No, really,” I'll say, “I’ll be done.”
But it’s a lie. I just won’t tell anyone that I’m still writing. No one will know that books are still being written. They may even be published via whatever dark underbelly of the self-pub world where illicit pseudonymous books are secretly slipped into the world. I’d deny all of it, of course, because I said I was done and that I was going to go be a hermit somewhere. It’s no good to be caught in a lie, after all.
But it is, truly, a lie.
And if that last statement is true—which it is—then all of the whining and stress and rage has nothing to do with failing, and everything to do with being disconnected with who you are and what you truly desire. My rage—oh, that persistent darkness that I so long to drown in a lake, once and for all—comes from not being strong enough to work hard at what I truly want. From thinking that the world owes me something. That the universe is going to show up at my front door like I just won a surprise sweepstakes. [Does anyone see the irony of the old dream being winning the ‘Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes’? Does anyone recall what publisher and what clearinghouse?]
No one owes me anything. I owe myself a bit of grace. A bit of kindness about the road I’ve chosen. I owe myself a moment to recognize the desire to live a creative life and not have a life that is defined by being a consumer. And when I take a deep breath and go for a walk around the block and come back to myself again, I remember all that. I remember that Persistence wins.
Everything else is out of my control, and, therefore, none of it matters. Truly. I have to keep working, because one day, like Rob Kroese—like J. K. Rowling, like Marie Doria Russell, and every other writer out there who never stopped believing in their work—someone will take note, and then things will change.
It can’t happen if you aren’t doing the work. One of the hardest things we have to do as writers is not figure out how to outline, or plot, or write good dialogue. It’s believing in ourselves. Over and over. Every day. Persistence wins.